Military diversity office improperly spent $1 million, housed violence and misogyny

Military diversity office improperly spent $1 million, housed violence and misogyny
Clarence A. Johnson, at the podium (credit: Department of Defense)

The Department of Defense’s (DoD) director of diversity broke rules to funnel more than a million of dollars to groups like the NAACP and the office was home to numerous incidents of violence, auditors found.

Women workers also found the diversity office to be an unfriendly environment. Three women observed a male worker “routinely touch and massage the genital area of his pants while speaking to them,” a newly released inspector general’s report said.

“He was fondling his package,” one said, with all three saying it was not accidental.

After a woman said a male worker pushed her and made her cry, a discrimination complaint adviser said there could be an anti-female harassment complaint in the diversity office, “the notoriety of which could be highly embarrassing for our office.”

The inspector general also received a tip about “gross mismanagement” of time and attendance and travel funds in the diversity office, and found “numerous anomalies.”

Clarence A. Johnson is a member of the federal government’s Senior Executive Service and runs DoD’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity. “My job is to grow, or focus on growing, the presence of minorities and women in the [GS]-12, 13, 14 pipeline,” Johnson told the IG, referring to the highest-paid federal employees.

The DoD received an allegation that Johnson was wasting “official representation funds” (ORF) which were used for “lunches and banquets” for “affinity groups” like the NAACP.

In 2001, the office spent $5,000 of these funds, but under Johnson by 2009 it had grown to $473,500, making it the “largest spender of ORF dollars” in its DoD division.

It typically requested $25,000 per event, which is the maximum amount that can be drawn at a time from ORF.

In 2010, ORF funds were cut and there was more “scrutiny” of expenditures, so Johnson directed the office to find a way around the limitation.

That year, the diversity office entered into a new contract where he would pay a company which would serve as a pass-through for giving out the donations. He would still decide who they were given to. The contract was given without competition using racial set-aside provisions and the company, NCMS, kept a cut.

The contract was initially for $498,976, an amount below the $500,000 threshold that would trigger a manual legal review. Later on, 36,000 was added to the contract.

Between August and October 2010, NCMS forwarded $226,000 in “sponsorship” payments to affinity groups.

$125,000 went to black groups and only $20,000 to Hispanic ones even though Hispanics outnumber blacks in the U.S.

The payments were called “sponsorships,” and were not permitted since the government is supposed to avoid giving seeming endorsements to outside groups except in certain conditions, which Johnson did not meet. There were no written contracts with the recipients.

The unusual contract triggered a separate audit which found that “none of the groups being ‘sponsored’… had been properly reviewed by DoD’s” Office of General Counsel and that the payments were “improper.”

“I will only comment that my office is neither engaged in any engagement, sponsorship or otherwise, unless it went through GC review. I will stand on that without a doubt,” Johnson told the IG, without providing “any co-sponsorship agreement to support his argument,” the report said.

Johnson blamed subordinates, which the IG found “did not obviate his responsibility to ensure compliance” with ethics.

The diversity office is still making payments to the groups, but has now shifted to entering into individual contracts with recipients. Johnson is still at the helm.

In addition to its own employees and the pass-through contractor for giving out the grants, the diversity office has a $500,000 contract with another company to provide administrative support.

The IG also found that travel costs in the diversity office were reimbursed without receipts, and a high-level GS-15 employee was known for “not showing up for work for long periods.” Johnson said the employee had a long commute but he was satisfied with his hours, but Johnson’s replacement while the director was on temporary reassignment said he “did not see the employee in the workplace and could not make contact during his first 6 weeks on the job.”

Unrelated to Johnson, there was also a criminal investigation of a senior civilian employee in the diversity office, an “intern-on-intern assault,” an “assault in the workplace by a military member on a senior civilian employee.”

Johnson “counseled” the employee who pushed a female, and did not know about the routine genital stimulation by a male employee.

This report, by Luke Rosiak, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.

LU Staff

LU Staff

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